National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over the last 30 years the number of children who are obese has more than doubled and the number of adolescents who are obese has more than tripled.

More analysis, from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, says that one in three children in the United States is overweight or obese. That means that one-third of this nation's children are at early risk for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and all of the other comorbidities of obesity. The risk is worst for young Hispanics and children of color.

Children and Type 2 Diabetes

More and more children are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. The profile is generally a child between the ages of 10 and 19, obese, with a strong family history for diabetes, high insulin resistance and an A1c between 10 and 12 percent.

While children with this diagnosis are still a relatively small percentage of the overall population of children in the U.S., the government has been concerned that this could be the start of an epidemic.

For that reason, the CDC and the National Institutes for Health (NIH) co-funded a study called SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth. The goal of the study has been to gain a better understanding of the prevalence of diabetes among children and adolescents in the country. Additional goals are to refine the definition of the disease in children, improve treatment protocols (which have been geared to adults before now) and raise physicians' awareness of the disease.

The findings to date of this ongoing study were grim. They determined that between 2001 and 2009 the presence of Type 1 diabetes had increased by 21 percent among children up to age 19, and the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes was up 30 percent.

These results mean that more children are going to be at risk for the possible complications of long-term diabetes - blindness, kidney failure, amputations - at an earlier point in their lives.

What We Can Do

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. With kids going back to school and household schedules re-establishing themselves, now is a great time to look at what we feed our children.

As those with diabetes know, a healthful diet, accompanied by regular exercise, is the prescription for maintaining a healthy weight. That is true for adults, and even more important for children.

Children need the nutrients provided by a diverse diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins to develop their brains and bodies.

Teaching our children to appreciate good foods early begins with setting a good example. Those of us fighting diabetes have likely already made the change to a healthier diet, with fewer processed and high-fat, highly salted foods.

Encouraging our children to appreciate the importance of the same good diet sets them on the path to a long and healthy adulthood.

We need to do everything we can to protect our children from the damage of diabetes.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mayo Clinic and New York TImes

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